The rebirth of UAB football continues to be underway. Days after signing its latest recruiting class (which actually ranked ahead of four Conference USA teams) and confirming its coaching staff to continue preparing for the program’s return in 2017, UAB’s Board of Trustees approved the funding for a $15 million football facility to be built on campus.
The 46,000-square foot facility will include updated locker rooms, administrative offices weight rooms and more to allow for the operation of a steady football program. This is the kind of support the program lacked at the time it was temporarily and hastily shutdown at the end of the 2014 season. It is important to keep in mind, however, this is still a work in progress for the university as it prepares to properly support its football program.
“Do the stars need to align a little bit? Yes, but so far they are,” UAB Athletic Director Mark Ingram said, per Al.com. “We feel great about the design efforts… People are making pledges.”
UAB head coach Bill Clark, who has admirably opted to stay in Birmingham to lead the program through this unique time, seems appreciative of the show of support from the university’s higher-ups.
“It’s just confirmation of where we’ve already been headed,” Clark said. “It’s a process that you go through at the university level to get buildings built, and for them to put phase one and phase two together is a big deal because it really just speeds the process up.”
Linebacker Jake Ganus transferred to Georgia last year following the abrupt shutdown of the UAB football program by the school. Ganus went on to have a standout season in Athens and earned team MVP honors. Now at the Senior Bowl, Ganus is staying true to his roots and representing the UAB program back in Alabama.
“I’ve had that helmet with me for a while,” Ganus after Senior Bowl practice Thursday, per SEC Country. “I spent three years there, I have hundreds of teammates and a bunch of coaches. I just wanted today to be the day I could just honor them. It’s all about my teammates. They got me to Georgia, those coaches got me to Georgia, those coaches they gave me a scholarship and I’m grateful to them and UAB for that. I’ll be wearing the Georgia helmet on Saturday, but I just want to take a day and thank them.”
Of course, nobody from the Georgia community will be likely to have a problem not seeing Ganus wearing the signature red helmet with the “G” logo, considering the story that led Ganus to Georgia. But don’t worry Georgia fans, Ganus appreciates all of your support too.
“I’ve got two fan bases behind me, it’s awesome.”
UAB reversed its original decision to eliminate football, but the Blazers are not expected to play again until the 2017 season at the earliest. UAB head coach Bill Clark has remained committed to seeing the program return to the field despite reports of Southern Mississippi having interest in the Blazers coach taking over as its head coach.
Two weeks from this very moment, your team’s recruiting class will likely be wrapped up. The National Letters of Intent will be in, the fax machine taking a breather until next year, the press release sent and your head coach’s ever-so-pleased press conference completed.
But there is much to do between now and the first weekend in February.
Understanding that this is essentially taking a snapshot of a scoreboard merely entering the fourth quarter, here is how the top 25 recruiting classes in the country stack up according to Rivals.com:
1. Ohio State
3. Ole Miss
4. Notre Dame
6. Florida State
10. Michigan State
14. Texas A&M
16. North Carolina
17. Penn State
A handful of teams I’d bet the farm on — grandpa’s prize heifer included — rising between now and Signing Day are Alabama (currently ranked 11th), Oklahoma (27th), Tennessee (30th) and Texas (42nd).
Also, UAB, who won’t play football again until 2017, presently boasts the nation’s 52nd-ranked recruiting class, tied with N.C. State and Iowa State, and just head of Arizona and Illinois.
UAB still doesn’t have a handle on exactly which players will be in uniform when football returns, but those that eventually will suit up for the Blazers will now know who’ll be on the other side of the ball for the first couple of weeks.
Thursday afternoon, UAB officials announced its dormant football program’s non-conference schedule for the 2017 season. UAB’s official on-field resurrection will begin Sept. 2 of that year against Alabama A&M of the FCS. The following week, their first road trip in nearly three years will take place as the Blazers will travel to Ball State to take on the Cardinals.
The BSU game is actually the first of back-to-back road games for UAB as they will face Coastal Carolina Sept. 16. UAB closes out non-conference play two months later with its only game against a Power Five program, in The Swamp against Florida Nov. 18.
“We are unbelievably excited about UAB Football’s return to the field in 2017 and look forward to great competition with this slate of non-conference games,” head coach Bill Clark, who was retained by the program and received a five-year contract extension last September, said in a statement. “This type of schedule, in addition to eight highly-competitive Conference USA contests, will provide Blazer fans with great entertainment. We look forward to playing in front of record crowds as UAB Football represents Birmingham and the Blazer Nation!”
In December of 2014, UAB announced that it was disbanding the football program. Six months later, the university announced that the shuttered football program would return to the playing field at some point; a month after that, it was announced that some point would be in 2017.
It was announced at that time that Blazers football would remain as part of Conference USA.
A couple of former Blazers who left the program have already returned (HERE, HERE, HERE) in anticipation of playing for their new/old team. Clark has also received a commitment from a former LSU defensive lineman in October of last year and one from a former Notre Dame running back a month later.
One of the top running backs in the Big Ten is turning pro. Indiana junior running back Jordan Howard has announced his decision to skip his final year of eligibility with the Hoosiers and enter the 2016 NFL Draft. Howard, who transferred to Indiana from UAB, released a lengthy statement expressing his thanks to many who have supported him along the way during his college career, including his parents, teammates at Indiana and UAB and coaches at both programs.
Howard is the 11th player in Indiana history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season and he ranks 12th in program history for single-season rushing yards. Howard appeared in just nine games this season for Indiana, yet he finsihed third in the Big Ten in rushing yards with 1,213 yards. Only Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott and Northwestern’s Justin Jackson finished with more rushing yards. Howard transferred to Indiana following the shutting down of the UAB program last year. At UAB, Howard rushed for 1,587 yards and 13 touchdowns for the Blazers in 2014. UAB clearly holds a special place in Howard’s heart. On his Twitter account, he has a tweet from December 2014 pinned to the top for all to see.
“My sincerest thanks to all of my coaches and teammates at Indiana University and the University of Alabama-Birmingham,” Howard’s statement said. “I would like to personally thank former UAB coach Garrick McGee for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to play at the collegiate level.”